Computer Laboratory

Human identity in an age of machines

John Wyatt, Beth Sinngler & Peter Robinson

The Science of Human Flourishing is a bold and ambitious three-year project that brings together leaders in the fields of science, technology and theology to examine some of the key elements that contribute to human flourishing. Funded by a generous grant from Templeton World Charity Foundation, the project deliberately spans a number of disciplines and comprises six research sub-projects and a programme of dissemination and public outreach.

The goal of this research sub-project is to explore the theological, social and philosophical implications of recent developments in robotics and AI technology for secular and religious understandings of human nature and identity. Of particular interest and concern is the development of humanoid robots whose appearance, motor behaviour and responsiveness are becoming virtually indistinguishable from human beings. In addition, new technical developments provide increasingly realistic simulation by AIs of human compassion, empathy and emotional intelligence. These developments raise urgent and profound questions and challenges for human self-understanding.

To date there has been very little genuinely multidisciplinary and informed debate about these issues. The current sub-project aims to address the implications of these developments using an academically rigorous and structured approach. In particular we will investigate whether there is a genuine convergence and blurring of human/machine abilities and behaviour and if so whether this is likely to lead to fundamental changes in common social and religious understandings of what it means to be human.

The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion Templeton World Charity Foundation Faraday Institute for Science and Religion